Seventy-three seconds after launch, Challenger was destroyed on live TV. We did not understand what we saw: Our teachers could not explain it, our parents were unlikely to have better answers, and few of us probably spent time paying attention to what transpired afterwards in terms of the official investigation. The Challenger disaster symbolizes a moment in our personal and shared memories when we felt great sorrow together.
One of the great honors of working at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is the opportunity to interact with some of the few humans to orbit the Earth. Earlier in December, we mourned the loss of one of our dearest supporters and friends, Senator John H. Glenn. Now, we have again lost a featured speaker at the Museum, Dr. Piers J. Sellers, who worked at the nearby NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The following stories about working with Sellers are from two Space History Department curators, who found his unique spirit and passion for science inspiring and heartwarming.
John Glenn died yesterday, after a lifetime of service to his country. He was a Marine aviator and combat veteran of two wars, the first American to orbit the Earth, a United States Senator, and a great friend. After 95 years, his service is finally complete. It is now up to us to celebrate a life well-lived, and to honor his legacy of virtue and valor. Our hearts are heavy, but full of gratitude.
Blue Origin, Jeff Bezo’s private rocket company, passed an in-flight test of its launch escape system Wednesday—a method of detaching a crew capsule from a launch rocket. The successful test moves Blue Origin one step closer to its goal of carrying tourists into space.
How to bring crews safely back to Earth in the event something goes wrong during a launch has always been a concern. Launch escape systems have been engineered into nearly all ventures into space.
At the Museum we’re fortunate to host many of the nation’s aerospace icons. This was certainly the case earlier this year when Gemini 10 and Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins was on hand for our 2016 John H. Glenn Lecture, Spaceflight: Then, Now, Next.
It’s the little things we take for granted here on Earth; things like being able to lie down on a bed and not have it float away, or wake up without suffocating on our own exhaled carbon dioxide. While interning at the Museum, I’ve spent time researching several of those things we take for granted but astronauts in space cannot.
Guion Bluford made history on August 30, 1983 when he became the first African American in space, launching into low Earth orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. He subsequently flew aboard three additional shuttle missions, logging a total of 688 hours in space.
Harrison “Jack” Schmitt was the first and last geologist to visit the Moon. Below is his secret chili recipe, served best with a side of tortilla chips and some space history. We can’t help with the chips, but we can tell you a little about this chili-making astronaut.
The last time Neil Armstrong's gloves and helmet were displayed, in 2012, visitors asked us about “grey spots” on the right glove. We're conducting research and examining historical documentation to find out why.